Articulated extended range transit buses introduced by Chinese manufacturer

BYD (Bring Your Dreams), a Chinese manufacturer of electric storage technologies and vehicles including cars and transit vehicles, has announced the world’s first articulated battery electric transit bus. The bus is 18 metres in length and has a range of 240 km on a single charge. BYD hopes that the new articulated bus will first enter service in the bus rapid transit system in Bogota, Colombia.

According to the Company, its regular 12 metre battery buses offer a 240 km range, up to 40 seats, passenger capacity of up to 120, full air conditioning, top speed of 90kmh or more, and 5 hour charging at 60kW, 480v, or 1.5 hour charging at 200kW, 480v. The vehicles are powered by a proprietary iron-phosphate battery which is claimed to have high energy density and a usable life of more than 6000 cycles or 20 years.

A BYD battery electric bus is currently being evaluated by Société de transport de l’Outaouais, across the river from Ottawa, and will be transferred to Société de transport de Montréal for further in-service evaluation early in 2014.

Details of the articulated bus are at and much more about the Company’s other electric vehicles may be found through the home page.

Abrupt climate change likely: timing uncertain

A report recently published by leading experts from the US National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine, states in no uncertain terms that abrupt climate changes are not only possible but likely in the future, potentially with large impacts on ecosystems and societies. The committee that prepared the report notes that there is no need to be fatalistic; human and natural systems have survived many abrupt changes in the past, and will continue to do so. Nonetheless, future dislocations can be minimized by taking steps to face the potential for abrupt climate change.

Drawing on the historical record, the scientists note that perturbations of climate in some regions have been spectacularly large: some had temperature increases of up to 16 degrees C and doubling of precipitation within decades, or even single years. There is no reason to believe that abrupt climate changes will not occur again. The Committee recommends additional research to improve the fundamental knowledge base and improve modelling relating to abrupt climate change. In addition, they urge increased efforts to identify “no-regrets” measures to reduce vulnerabilities and increase adaptive capacity at little or no cost. No-regrets measures may include low-cost steps to: slow climate change; improve climate forecasting; slow biodiversity loss; improve water, land, and air quality; and develop institutions that are more robust to major disruptions.

In a section headed Final thoughts, the Committee notes that “the United States and other wealthy nations are likely to cope with the effects of abrupt climate change more easily than poorer countries. This does not mean that developed countries can remain isolated from the rest of the world, however. With growing globalization, adverse impacts—although likely to vary from region to region because exposure and sensitivity will vary—are likely to spill across national boundaries, through human and biotic migration, economic shocks, and political aftershocks. Thus, even though this report focuses primarily on the United States, the issues are global and it will be important to give attention to the issues faced by poorer countries that are likely to be especially vulnerable to the social and economic
impacts of abrupt climate change.”

The 167 extensively referenced report, Abrupt Climate Change: Inevitable Surprises, is available at

Santa’s carbon footprint is excessive, according to UK academics

The United Bank of Carbon, a not-for-profit UK-based collaboration of businesses and environmental scientists that undertakes sustainable rainforest conservation projects for their value as carbon sinks, has published a report from the University of Leeds’ School of Earth and Environment claiming that, this holiday season, Santa’s carbon footprint from the UK alone could be as high as 9 tonnes per stocking, 25% more than the average person in the UK emits in a whole year. Imagine how much higher his carbon footprint must be for Canada!

The report is based on assuming that Santa makes a single trip around the UK to deliver presents to all of the 7.7 million homes with just under two children per household, This would mean that he travels roughly 1.5 million km. If Santa’s greenhouse gas emissions are the same as aircraft freight, then bringing every child a stocking would emit 139 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, or 9 tonnes per stocking.

The report notes that if flying reindeer rather than a Rolls Royce jet engine do indeed power Santa’s sleigh, the situation could be even more worrying – the methane produced by the reindeer’s tailpipe emissions is over 20 times worse for climate than emissions of carbon dioxide. However, an environmentally-aware and technologically-savvy Santa may be able to capture some of the methane with specially designed reindeer backpacks and use it to aid sleigh flotation and, as a result, the academics are sticking with their 9 tonnes of carbon dioxide per stocking estimate.

GallonDaily respectfully disagrees with the University of Leeds’ scientists. Santa is magic and. like most magic, there are no associated carbon emissions. In fact, Gallondaily confidently predicts that Santa’s travels are carbon neutral.

However, we do concur that the typical carbon footprint of manufacturing each gift is likely around 10kg, something that both Santa and gift givers would be well advised to consider when selecting Christmas gifts. Gifts with low materiality, such as theatre tickets, or gifts that contribute to carbon sinks, such as useful gardening gifts or durable wooden gifts, such as hockey sticks, can help reduce the overall carbon footprint of the holiday season.

However, this Santa story does illustrate a couple of messages that GallonDaily sees as important:

  • major carbon accounting organizations, such as United Bank of Carbon, are now beginning to use simplified, low cost, methods to approximate carbon footprints. This bodes well for increased use of carbon footprint measurement and comparison in 2014 and subsequently.
  • even such socially-protected images such as Santa Claus can now be subjected to implied criticism for their carbon emissions, suggesting that concern over climate change is now beginning to be as entrenched as Santa Claus. Hopefully, Canada’s leaders will take this into account not only in their 2013 Christmas gifting but also in their policy decisions in 2014 and beyond.

Happy Holidays and Happy Christmas to all our readers.


The report, which is well referenced and which contains much more useless data than reported here, is available at

New international sustainability network for CFOs

In 2004 HRH The Prince of Wales set up the Accounting for Sustainability (A4S) Project “To help ensure that sustainability – considering what we do not only in terms of ourselves and today, but also of others and tomorrow – is not just talked and worried about, but becomes embedded in organizations’.

This month the Project launched the A4S Chief Financial Officer Leadership Network, claimed to be the first grouping of its kind to focus on the role CFOs play in integrating environmental and social issues into financial decision making. The Network encourages participation by large company CFOs from around the world. Member companies that will be well-known to Canadians include Danone, Unilever, and Walmart. John Rogers, CFO, Sainsbury’s, and Pierre-André Terisse, CFO, Danone, are Co-Chairs of the Network.

Network objectives are:

  • To support the CFO community in the development of sustainable business models
  • To share insights, challenges and opportunities to accelerate progress towards accounting for sustainability and collaborate with others to increase the reach and impact of Network activities
  • To work together to develop new tools, methodologies and approaches where required in order to embed sustainability into internal decision making processes
  • To influence the environment within which organisations operate through engagement with investors and other stakeholders

Network commitments include:

  • To act as leaders in this area and to engage the wider CFO community
  • To work to achieve tangible outcomes towards more sustainable business models
  • To share experiences of ‘successful’ and ‘unsuccessful’ projects in embedding sustainability within decision making and accounting
  • To develop guidance to improve transparency in decision making including ways to embed sustainability into capital expenditure appraisal and to better model risk and uncertainty
  • To contribute to the development of improved methodologies for the measurement and valuation of natural and social capital in order that they can be taken into account in decision making processes
  • To improve investor engagement on the commercial benefits of sustainable business models
  • The Network will meet on a quarterly basis with a ‘no delegates’ policy. Members commit to providing resources from their teams to work on Network projects.

This appears to be a project that warrants, and would benefit from, the involvement of many more Canadian companies. More information is available at

PCBs should be eliminated

This week the Québec Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment, Wildlife and Parks, Yves-François Blanchet, announced a new program for inspection of PCB storage sites. The announcement was made at a site in Pointe-Claire where a company had been found to be storing PCBs illegally. In his comments to the media the Minister indicated that there are 60 licensed PCB storage sites in Quebec but may be as many as 1300 sites in total where PCBs are, or have been, stored. If the Minister’s estimate of a possible 1300 PCB locations in Québec is correct, there may be as many as 4,000 to 5,000 PCB locations across Canada.

Regulation of PCB management is primarily a federal government responsibility but the slow progress being made is an indicator of the problems that arise when deadlines are set too far into the future. The import, manufacture, and sale (for re-use) of PCBs were made illegal in Canada in 1977. Release of PCBs to the environment was made illegal in 1985. Between 1998 and 2008 Environment Canada implemented a number of regulations with respect to PCBs, including mandatory reporting of PCB inventories in use, in storage or destroyed. The objective is to eliminate all PCBs by 2025.

The annual data on PCBs reported by Environment Canada are extremely inconsistent. Reported quantities go up and down like a yoyo. There is no obvious trend towards elimination of PCBs. In acknowledging this problem. Environment Canada states that:

The gap between quantities of PCBs reported . . . can be explained by a number of possible reasons: a large number of persons subject to the Regulations were late in complying or are still not complying with use and storage deadlines due to the costs involved and are not reporting; other persons subject to the Regulations are not complying with these deadlines and reporting requirements due to a lack of knowledge of the Regulations; or Environment Canada’s files on PCBs in use and in storage for 2007 are not up to date. Environment Canada is investigating these possible reasons in order to improve compliance with the requirements of the Regulations.

This current PCB situation presents a potential risk to organizations having PCBs on their property. The Canadian public has come to regard PCBs as one of the most toxic products ever developed. Each time a PCB location is revealed the public in the area are likely to become outraged. This will cause the media and politicians to respond, further damaging the reputation of the PCB owning organization and increasing the probability of new government regulations. PCB owners will be the losers.

There are several reasons that management of PCBs is such a mess:

  • in the early days of the PCB problem there were few if any proven technologies for destroying PCBs. That problem has now been solved and destruction technologies are available in Canada.
  • transportation and environmentally sound destruction of PCBs is expensive.
  • most PCB owners do not have a budget to pay for their disposal, particularly given that PCBs were once a legal and considered safe product.
  • many PCB owners are small companies with little relevant expertise.
  • PCB manufacturers have never been required to step up to the plate to help pay for destruction of PCBs, again because at the time they were being manufactured they were considered a legal and safe product.
  • governments have put very little money into PCB removal and destruction, even though they approved use of PCBs during the period before the PCB ban.
  • governments only see final destruction of PCBs to be a priority when some are found in an inappropriate place or when some are released to the environment.
  • 2025 is so far away that it does not create a priority today.

Storage of PCBs is not a solution. The PCBs will not degrade and will not go away, except where they are illegally diluted with mineral oil and subsequently discharged to the environment. The costs of PCB destruction can only increase: it will cost more to destroy them in the future than it would cost today.

Organizations, mostly companies and municipalities, that have PCBs in storage or in use (generally in stationary transformers) should now give serious consideration to getting rid of them. Failure to do so poses a risk to the company from spills and from adverse PCB-related media attention. Also there will likely be many more regulations regarding PCB storage and destruction in future years than there are today, increasing the costs of PCB management. It will likely be cheaper to do it now than to postpone it to the future.

The Quebec announcement about increased inspection for PCB storage facilities is at

Environment Canada’s PCB statements are
with the PCB Progress Report on PCB Regulations

Gaining understanding of wind turbine noise

A new study from industry group RenewableUK, prepared by the National Aerospace Laboratory of the Netherlands, provides some interesting insight into the issue of noise from large wind turbines.

Large wind turbines are found to make two types of noise: a fairly quiet and continuous swishing noise caused by the flow of air over the blades and emanating mostly from the trailing edge of the blade and a thumping or louder swishing noise that typically occurs for only a few minutes at a time but which can be very annoying to some individuals. The former is known as Normal Amplitude Modulation and is a typical component of turbine operation. The latter is known as Enhanced Amplitude Modulation and is the major subject of the study.

EAM has increased low-frequency content compared to NAM and may be associated with specific directions from the spinning blades. Modelling conducted for the study indicates that EAM may be associated with aerodynamic stalling of parts of the airflow over the turbine blade. This may be caused by wind shear and changes in wind direction across the diameter of the turbine blades. The stalls are capable of causing generation of sound waves that transmit a thumping and/or above-average swishing sound.

The good news from the study is that, if the analysis is correct, the software that controls the turbine may be used to eliminate the local stalling on the blades and hence eliminate the EAM.

More research is needed to confirm these findings but elimination of the sound profile that some individuals find most annoying would go a long way to addressing the reasonable concerns of turbine neighbours.

A summary, and a link to the full report (mostly a very technical acoustical engineering analysis), are available at

Fewer business flights in UK mean less justification for airport expansion, claims WWF

Earlier this year the Federal government announced plans to have Toronto’s third airport at Pickering in operation by 2027. The stated justification is that “The demand is here”.

A report published by WWF in the UK suggests that, at least in that country, the demand for more flights may not be there. WWF states that:

  • Business flying at Heathrow has fallen by 23% since 2000 – and not because of capacity or the recession.
  • It’s part of a broader trend. Across the UK, business trips by air are down by 13% since 2000.
  • The share of UK flights taken for business purposes has dropped steadily for many years, and is now just 16%
  • Smart companies know that flying less and using technology more saves time and money.
  • Working with WWF, leaders such as Microsoft UK and BT have thrived by reducing flights by 20% in just a few years.
  • Many FTSE 500 companies are making a permanent shift towards lower-carbon alternatives to flying. Videoconferencing will grow from 36 million users in 2011 to a projected 219 million users in 2016.
  • Any new runway [at Heathrow] would be used mainly for leisure trips, which may actually shrink the UK economy.
  • British businesses are profiting by flying less.

GallonDaily is not aware of a source of compiled data for Canada that is comparable to the WWF UK report.

The report, which is in the form of an infographic, or slide deck, can be found at

The organic milk study

Responsible marketers have emphasized for years that the organic in organic food is about a production system that avoids synthetic pesticides and other farm inputs and not necessarily about the healthfulness of the food itself. A study of organic milk reported in the online science journal PLOS ONE indicates that, at least in the case of milk, organic farm practices may lead to healthier products.

The study, from a team led by scientists at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources of Washington State University, found that, averaged over 12 months, organic milk contained 25% less ω-6 fatty acids and 62% more ω-3 fatty acids than conventional milk. Without getting into the health aspects, the scientists report that  average ω-6/ω-3 intake ratios in the human diet have been increasing, thereby increasing probable risk factors for a wide range of developmental and chronic health problems.

The study indicates that the difference may come not so much from the organic feed program but from the fact that milk from cows consuming significant amounts of grass and legume-based forages contains higher concentrations of ω-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid than milk from cows lacking routine access to pasture and fed substantial quantities of grains, especially corn. The US National Organic Program requires that lactating cows on certified organic farms receive at least 30% of daily dry matter intake from pasture during that portion of the year when pasture grasses and legumes are actively growing, with a minimum of 120 days per year. There is no similar requirement for conventional milk cows.

The study concludes that full-fat organic dairy products offer clear advantages for individuals striving to reduce their overall dietary ω-6/ω-3 ratio.

No doubt there will be push-back from the conventional dairy industry, particularly to the authors suggestion that the problem of too much ω-6 fatty acids in conventional milk arises because the proportion of fresh forage in conventional dairy diets has decreased continuously over the last 40 years in the U.S. and that grain-based “total mixed rations” now dominate the conventional U.S. dairy sector. These “total mixed rations” may include such ingredients as byproducts from vegetable oil, soy biodiesel, or ethanol plants, brewers dried grain from malting barley, or a wide range of food processing wastes.

This is one study that does not state that more research is needed. The authors appear to be of the opinion that high ω-6 fatty acid levels are clearly associated with non-pasture sources of nutrition for dairy cattle and that expected benefits from reduced dietary ω-6/ω-3 ratios, coupled with increased long-chain ω-3 intakes, are almost certainly greatest for women hoping to bear a child, for pregnant women and their babies, and for infants and children through adolescence. They state that high ω-6/ω-3 ratios and/or low long-chain ω-3 intakes predispose the developing fetus to a wide range of adverse neurological and immune system disorders, and can also impair the visual system.

An abstract and the full study are available at

This GallonDaily article has been amended to remove our mistake with respect to the role of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Our apologies. The authors of the original article consider CLA in milk to be a positive for human health and find more CLA in milk from pasture-fed cows than in conventional milk.

Expansion of Global Value Chains

A new OECD trade policy paper graphically illustrates the importance of global value chains to the global economy, while recognizing that there is still much we do not know about the size and direction of the resulting effects. The paper defines a value chain as “the full range of activities that firms undertake to bring a product or a service from its conception to its end use by final consumers”. A GVC results when the activities undertaken span two or more countries.

The report reviews GVCs for agriculture and food products, chemical products, vehicles, electronics, business services, and financial services but the most illustrative part of the report is a case study on the well-known breakfast spread Nutella®. Note that the report’s analysis appears to be based on European-made Nutella®. Ferrero also manufactures Nutella® in Brantford, Ontario.

According to the report, Nutella® has a global value chain spanning at least six countries. Ferrero International SA, its manufacturer, is headquartered in Italy and has nine factories producing Nutella®: five are located in Europe, one in Russia, one in North America, two in South America and one in Australia. Some inputs are locally supplied, for example the packaging or some of the ingredients, like skimmed milk. There are however ingredients that are globally supplied: hazelnuts come from Turkey, palm oil from Malaysia, cocoa from Nigeria, sugar from Brazil (but also from Europe) and the vanilla flavour from France. Nutella® is then sold in 75 countries.

The OECD report is available at by clicking on the Adobe Acrobat PDF symbol.

Urging avoidance of textiles from the rainforest

The business-oriented Vancouver-based environmental group Canopy has launched a campaign against what it describes as textiles from ‘ancient and endangered forests’ being used in clothing. Canopy defines ancient and endangered forests as the Canadian and Russian boreal forests; temperate rainforests of British Columbia, Alaska and Chile; and the tropical rainforests of Indonesia and the Amazon. According to Canopy, clothing made from, or containing, rayon, model or viscose fabric may be made from material from these forests.

The Canopy campaign is very eye-catching with one of the photos featuring an adult and young orangutan apparently preparing for a smooch while others feature a bear, a forest scene, and a woman dressed in a little bit of greenery. Gallondaily suspects that this campaign will attract significant media attention. So far, Canopy reports that EILEEN FISHER, Quiksilver, prAna, Patagonia, and lululemon athletica have signed on to its campaign to protect “endangered forests from being logged for clothing”.

Such consumer-oriented campaigns are laudable but, as the somewhat controversial multistakeholder Forest Stewardship Council has shown, they make progress towards eliminating unsustainable cutting of forest resources at a pathetically slow rate, if at all. A good summary of criticism of FSC is provided in Wikipedia at

The economic, social and trade issues associated with use of forest fibre for paper, furniture, construction, and clothing are complex. An treaty to ban cutting of trees in unsustainably managed forests has been attempted and has failed to achieve the kind of international agreement required. In the short term, linking certain clothing fabrics to destruction of ‘ancient and endangered forests’ is a useful educational tool for business and consumers but it is unlikely to stop the destruction of the forests. What is needed is for the economic value of standing forests to exceed the economic value of cut timber. International climate change discussions are moving in that direction but still have a very long way to go.

The Canopy campaign for textiles from sustainably managed forests can be found at . More about the environmental group Canopy is at